Governor Beshear Announces Bold Plan to Transfer Otter Creek Female Inmates to State-Run Facility
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 8, 2010) – Gov. Steve Beshear announced today that all Kentucky female felony inmates currently housed at a private prison will be housed in state prisons under a plan that converts a state-run facility currently housing males to a female prison.
Female inmates now housed at Otter Creek Correctional Complex, a private prison in Wheelwright, will occupy Western Kentucky Correctional Complex (WKCC), a state facility in Lyon County that currently houses males. Male inmates there will be reassigned to other facilities in Kentucky, including the Otter Creek facility, once officials with the Kentucky Department of Corrections determine the most appropriate location for them based on custody level, programming needs and proximity to their homes.
The moves are expected to begin taking place by the first of the new fiscal year that begins July 1, 2010 following building modifications at WKCC.
“Moving these female prisoners out of Otter Creek and into facilities operated by the state is the right thing to do,” Gov. Beshear said, noting that the Department of Corrections has the experience and successful record of managing female inmates.
“As a result of the troubling allegations and incidents that Otter Creek experienced in managing a female population, we instituted more stringent operating and reporting requirements, and limited the extension of their contract to the end of the current fiscal year so we could review their progress and assess our options,” Gov. Beshear added. “This bold plan gives us a better fit for our entire felon population and a long-term solution to how we manage female inmates.”
Gov. Beshear further stated that he will again be supporting legislation in the current session of the General Assembly that would increase the penalty of sexual misconduct by correctional officers and other prison officials from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony.
“Such actions not only threaten the well-being and safety of our inmates, but pose a significant threat to the security of our institutions,” said Gov. Beshear. “There is no place for this behavior in our system.”
With its capacity to house 673 inmates, WKCC would accommodate expansion of the female inmate population, the fastest growing segment of the state’s system. The change also creates a large minimum security unit for female offenders, a first in the history of the department.
“This move gives us the flexibility to more appropriately manage and supervise our inmate population, particularly our female population, without immediately investing millions of public dollars into expanding or building new prisons,” Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown said.
Sec. Brown added that many of the problems associated with Otter Creek’s management of the female inmates were related to a low staffing level of female correctional officers and that the state facility, which offers better pay, benefits and promotional opportunities, has greater potential for recruiting and hiring women.
Kentucky Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson said Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Otter Creek’s parent company, has agreed to partner with the state in the move. Kentucky will negotiate contracts with CCA for all their Kentucky facilities, including Otter Creek, to exclusively house male inmates.
Thompson said some renovations, mainly for plumbing and bathroom upgrades, will be made at WKCC to accommodate the females. The move is expected to be cost-neutral in its first year, but is expected to save $2.2 million annually in subsequent years. Community work currently performed and programs offered to inmates at WKCC will continue with the female population.
“This transition, from a male inmate population to a female inmate population, will not create any reduction in our valuable workforce at Western Kentucky Correctional Complex,” said Thompson.
Thompson also noted there will be a training plan implemented to prepare WKCC staff for the transition. The training plan will include experienced staff from Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, currently the state’s only female prison, working with WKCC staff on managing female offenders.
“I want to thank Governor Beshear for making this move, because it will provide added job security during a tough economy,” said Rep. Will Coursey, of Benton. “This decision also further validates the great work done by our corrections staff in Lyon County. They have repeatedly shown they have the resources and the determination to do the job right.”